Hokkaido, located in the north of Japan, is the country’s biggest prefecture and is home to over 5 million people. It’s the least developed of the main islands in Japan and faces harsh winters where temperatures can reach -20 degrees celsius. However on the flip side, Hokkaido manages to avoid the almost unbearable hot and humid summer found in the southern parts of the country since it’s so far north.
Hokkaido is known for it’s amazing skiing and snowboarding during the winter months and millions of tourists visit each February to attend the world famous Sapporo snow festival. Hokkaido’s short summer season starts in June after the snow finally melts and it’s a wonderful time to visit since there are many outdoor activities which can be enjoyed such as hiking, fishing and camping.
With its comfortable and moderate temperatures, the summer is definitely the best time to travel by camper van in Hokkaido. We spent 4 months in Hokkaido travelling by camper van and we will share the reasons why we absolutely love van life in Hokkaido!
Why We Love Travelling By Camper Van In Hokkaido
1. Many Free Campsites
We have mentioned before in previous blog posts about free campsites in Japan. These campsites are usually owned and managed by the local government and are available for the public to use free of charge.
Free campsites usually only have basic facilities such as a Japanese style toilet, a sink to wash dishes in and a grassy area for campers. There is nothing luxury about these free campsites, however they are a wonderful option for those travelling on a budget.
In Hokkaido, there are loads of free campsites available for campers and camper vans to use! During our time travelling by camper van in Hokkaido, we only paid to stay somewhere a few times since there were so many free campsites available all over the place.
Hokkaido is very well set up for camping and camper vans and we saw many locals using the facilities too!
2. Interesting Scenery
We found that the scenery in Hokkaido was very different to other parts of Japan that we had visited. Instead of rice fields, there were many dairy farms and fields of vegetables.
In the north of Hokkaido, rice is not grown due to the climate so other more suitable crops are grown such as potatoes and onions!
3. Many Free Outdoor Hot Springs
Hokkaido is home to many volcanoes and as a result there are many natural onsens available to visit. During our time in Hokkaido, we came across quite a lot of outdoor wild onsens surrounded by beautiful nature.
In the Akan Mashu National Park and the Shiretoko National Park, all the outdoor onsens were maintained by locals and free of charge!
4. Great Hiking
We really enjoyed hiking during the summer months in Hokkaido. Hiking trails are always well maintained and signposted and there is usually information about the hikes available at the local information center or nature center.
Hokkaido is home to 9 of the famous 100 Japanese mountains, but if they sound too strenuous, there are more beginner-friendly hikes available!
5. Van Life Community
Hokkaido is a really popular destination for van lifers from Honshu who are looking to escape the summer heat and humidity. There are many retired people travelling in self-converted camper vans for 3-4 months of the summer all around Hokkaido and then they head back to Honshu once the weather starts to cool down again in September or October.
We really liked meeting other van lifers who were travelling for a long time since we ended up bumping into the same people many times. A lot of people travel a similar route around Hokkaido and also like to stay in the same type of places so it’s inevitable that you might end up seeing the same people a few times!
We really enjoyed the seafood and fresh vegetables in Hokkaido. Different foods are abundant during different months so we enjoyed stocking up when certain vegetables were in season and being sold for a cheaper price!
While travelling by camper van in Hokkaido, we also came across many small vegetable stalls at the side of the road which we love! The prices are always really reasonable and most of the time the vegetables are chemical free which is important to us.
Hokkaido is famous for it’s fresh seafood and it’s a great place to go salmon fishing during the salmon season which starts in August and ends in September.
We tried our luck at salmon fishing with a cheap fishing rod and bait purchased from the home center and we managed to catch quite a few salmon during the season. We were surprised at how many salmon there were and most people we saw fishing managed to catch a fish too!
Other types of fish can also be caught in Hokkaido and fishing is a really popular hobby with locals too. There are many fishing shops where you can purchase equipment if you forget something.
8. The Weather
As we already mentioned earlier in the blog post, the weather in Hokkaido is very comfortable during the summer months with very little humidity. The maximum temperature we experienced was 30 degrees celsius and we never struggled to sleep during the night.
The hot and humid weather during summer in most of Honshu makes van life a little more difficult since it’s sometimes challenging to sleep comfortably during the night.
If you are planning a camper van trip during the summer in Japan, we would definitely recommend you to go to Hokkaido!
Our Overall Verdict About Travelling By Camper Van In Hokkaido
Hokkaido is a wonderful part of Japan to explore by camper van and with the amount of camper vans we saw on the road during our time in Hokkaido, we definitely are not the only ones who think that!
With numerous roadside stations and free campsites, it’s possible to travel on a budget and avoid paying for overnight stays.
Whether it’s hiking, fishing or rafting, there is so much to see and do in Hokkaido during the summer months, so there will definitely be something for everyone to enjoy!